Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cover Letter Jitters

Hi, everyone! How's your weekend going? Have you accomplished your goals for the time being--whatever they may be?

I'm about to send off a short story to Penumbra Publishing, which is an ezine. I've checked out their "open call" submissions page a few times to make sure what I'm sending them is what they want--they only take their themed pieces--when it closes, length, and so forth. I'm entering a steampunk short story. It's somewhat based on a chapter in my third novel (which is not even finished yet), and since it has everything to do with steampunk, I decided to re-work it into a short story. I haven't written any short stories in a while, as I was concentrating on getting my book(s) published. Well, this sort of falls after having participated in the "Campaigner Challenge",

So, having gotten the story ready, you might think I'm done. No. Not hardly. Now comes the cover letter. If any of you have never written one, I'm about to tell you how. It's not difficult. However you need to pay attention to the rules.

Consider any cover letter/query like a job interview. Sometimes the less said the better. In fact you want a cover letter to be short, to the point and very professional. The editors merely want to know WHO, WHAT, WHY, and your writing credits if any. Nothing more. You want your beginning to sound professional. You never start out with "Hi". This is not your friend you are talking to. You do not want to be cute, silly or funny. You don't know these people and they don't know you. Keep in mind, if you are a serious writer, your query should show it. Many times they will look at the piece you've sent first, read a first sentence, and if they like that, they'll read further. Your query letter might be the last thing they look at closely to see whether you have any publishing credits, awards--writing wise--and that's it. Or it may be the very first thing they do look at. Either way, a bad query can kill the piece you're trying to send them.

Your beginning should look like this:

Dear Madam, or Sir: {if you do not who you are addressing, but see below}

If you know who you are addressing, always use  Mr. Ms. (last name). Usually it's a good idea to see what your publisher's name is, or, if there is an editor, direct it to them.

The first paragraph should be short and to the point:

I have a steampunk story, "Dreadfuls", I have placed in documents sent in attachments and would like you to consider it for your March issue for Steampunk.

At this point you might want to say how you came to find them, and why you want them to consider your work.At this point you might tell them how long you've been writing, if you wish. Sometimes the best way to put it is: I felt that this piece may fit well with your publication. If you have read their publication, or subscribe to it, this would be good to place here too. But don't go on and on about who/what you like to read, except to make it clear that you've read at least one publication.

At this point you've reached the middle of the letter. If you have any publishing credits mention them in a third paragraph. Even if you had a letter published in any publication (newspaper, magazine, etc.) it counts. You don't have to say what exactly you've had published. But if you have had poems, articles, short stories, a book published, this is where you want to place it. The most impressive first.

This is how mine will probably look:
My publishing credits are as follows: With Copperhill Media: book/eBook Vampire Ascending, and soon to be published: Vampire's Trill; Short story anthology eBook: "Campaigner Challenges 2011". Short stories, poems and articles: ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest Magazine, Black Oak Media ezine, Weed's Corner, Mid-America Poetry Review, Liquid Ohio, Rock River Times, The Mid-Week, and others.

Your ending should be just as clean and crisp as the rest of the letter. You bow out gracefully, and get out of the way so that they can get to your piece.

End of letter and salutation:

Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,

Lorelei Bell

There you have it. I'm about to get this written up and send off some time today. I'll let you know if I make it through the first selection. It may be a while before I hear back from them--they said 2-3 weeks. Sending this via email isn't exactly a frist for me, but things are sure done differently when I remember you typed things out, or even printed them out and sent them via snail mail.


Hey, did I get you thinking? Want to add a comment? Be my guest and be nice about it. Since I've seen too many "anonymous" users I've taken this option off. Sorry, but you are only interested in selling me something. But my regulars are always welcome!